6. Issues to be Resolved for NSR Operation
6.1 Related Technology
All technologies required for the opening of the NSR are fully prepared for application. No urgent drawing up of a large-scale or radical program of research and development is required. Improvement in performance and safety of ships, in keeping with the profitability requirements of the global market, will clearly be an issue of paramount importance for the foreseeable future. Subject to changes in national and international maritime regulations, optimum ship design depends greatly on international trends in energy and shipping markets. Despite the maturity of the marine technology applied in NSR shipping, therefore, further research and development of related technologies cannot be neglected.
Surface transportation is predicated on the shipment of large volumes to minimize unit cost. Assuming no upper limit in the demand for a commodity and no problems with safety in navigation, the larger the capacity of the vessel is, the greater its profitability. In the NSR, ship design is limited by the shallowness of the coastal Arctic seas and the size of the escorting icebreakers. Another barrier is the concern that larger ships incur the risk of greater accidents causing pollution of the Arctic. Leaving aside the issue of expected shipping volumes in the NSR, however, it is undeniable that the capacity of currently available vessels in the NSR cannot satisfy the demands for profitability in the international shipping market. When scenarios for seasonal NSR operation are examined, taking into account the operational risks, the need for environmental protection, the size of escorting icebreakers and the problems of handling convoys in escort mode, practical solutions should urgently be found, satisfying the requirements for safety and profitability in NSR operations.
(1) Ship structure, etc.
Ships traveling Arctic seas must above all satisfy a certain level of icebreaking capability and demonstrate safe ship design, with tolerable reliability of the hull, rudder and propellers against expected ice loads. Further study is needed to estimate accurately the interactions between ice and propeller in each mode of operation, but the basic engineering issues involving the design of hull and propulsion system are well on the way to a practical solution.
A unique aspect of NSR navigation is the need for vessels to possess the necessary tugging and towing apparatus for icebreaker support. The best approach would seem to be to draw on Russia's wealth of experience in this field, by studying approaches based on the equipment currently in general use in Russian vessels.
To reduce the cost of ships and boost profitability of navigation, practical and applied research will have to be directed toward matters such as heating and insulation of cargo holds, on-deck water processing, deicing and night vision device. For example, urethane is an excellent insulating material, but its use is restricted due to the ban on CFCs. Future shipbuilding should rely greatly on materials and designs that take into account the entire life cycle of the ship, including repair, renovation and scrapping.
As the results of the operation simulation for NSR shipping demonstrated, much work remains to be done to bridge the gap in competitiveness between the NSR and conventional routes. In terms of both technology and the regulatory framework, measures have to be found to reduce the disparity in construction cost and payload between conventional and NSR ships.